When using a tripod on terrain that is rocky, uneven, or hilly, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your tripod is as stable as it can be. Some of these tips may seem like common sense, but they will hopefully help prevent any accidents such as your camera taking a plunge in a river!
Photo by David Clapp
1. Weight And Load
Before you venture out make sure you're using a tripod that can support the weight of your gear. Also, if you're buying a new tripod and are planning on getting larger heavier lenses in the future do take this into consideration when making your purchase. Look for a light tripod rated for the highest weight as you'll soon notice the weight of your tripod once you're half way up a wet, uneven hillside.
2. Assess Your Environment
It's always better to be safe than sorry, so make sure that the area is stable enough to stand your tripod on before setting up. If you're working on very rocky terrain or near the edge of a big drop, make sure the tripod is not liable to slip.
It can also take a while to set your tripod up so it's always a good idea to find your location and have some ideas about composition before putting your camera on its support.
3. Legs Before Column
When setting up, extend the legs before extending the centre column. Extending just the centre column is one quick operation and you are ready to shoot, but it is not good technique and can leave you with an unstable base to work with.
4. Adjust The Legs
Extend the fattest leg section first and keep the thin, spindly legs till last for when you really need the height. Having a wider base to work with is always a wise decision as they are more stable. Many tripods now offer various angle settings that lock at different degrees.
5. Ensure Your Tripod Is Level
Many tripods and tripod heads have built-in spirit levels to help you keep the tripod level. If your tripod hasn't, buy a spirit level to fit onto the camera's accessory shoe.
6. Position Of Your Tripod's Legs
Point one of the legs towards your subject so you have room for your feet between the two other legs. This will mean you have one less thing you have to worry about falling over when working on tricky terrain.
7. What Feet Does Your Tripod Have?
Most tripods have rubber feet which absorb shock and offer good grip, but some do have spiked feet. Spiked feet can be bought as optional accessories or sometimes you can get both types in one. They're particular useful for outdoor photographers as most of the time you'll end up working on loose soil, dirt, and other surfaces that will be uneven.
8. Keep It Stable On Windy Days
Some tripods have a hook which you can features a centre column hook, you can hang a bag of stones or other weighty objects off it to balance the tripod. Another option is to take a heavy camera bag and wrap the strap(s) around the tripod's head to add extra weight. For lighter tripods, use your body as a shield from the wind. Sticking spiked feet into the ground will also help keep the tripod still, they're particularly useful when working at the coast to stop waves knocking your gear into the sea.
Another option is to use a piece of string or some nylon webbing can add extra stability. Tie one end to the centre column and have the other tied in a loop. Next time in a strong wind, have the string / webbing hanging down and slip your shoe into it and lean down. Your body weight will give extra stability.
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